Pergamon Museum

The Pergamon Museum in Berlin is another must see museum of the world and one that I had planned on visiting while in town.  Before Robert and I left town, David said that he wanted to go to the Pergamon with us and I was absolutely happy to oblige as he’s demonstrated a refreshingly wide knowledge of history and archaeology in previous discussions.


The building itself is on Museum Island along with a number of other museums and was completed in 1930.  Its amazing to look at this building and see what kind of damage it suffered in WWII.  You can see the effects of war in the chunk taken out of the first column on the left and the various other holes in the buildings columns and facades.  Fortunately, most of the display objects in the museum at the time were stored in safe places or  protected.  Though in 1945, occupying Red Army forces removed all of the objects and took them to Russia as war booty.  Most were returned in 1958, but substantial portions of the collection are still held by the Russians at the Pushkin Museum and the Hermitage in Saint Petersberg.


The Pergamon Altar is a monumental structure that has been reconstructed inside the museum from archaeological projects in Turkey.  The structure really is immense and surrounded by a frieze that portrays the struggle of the gods in various aspects that show their powers and talents.


The discovery of all these structures complete with written language certainly made interpreting context easier.  Of course Greek was more proximal to modern languages and did not need the Rosetta Stone that we saw in London to provide the translation, but the rush early archaeologists must have felt when determining context of place and time when translating these writings would have been tremendous.


This structure from 120 AD is the Market Gate of Miletus.  Its phenomenal to think that these structures were relatively commonplace in 120AD and that this was simply one gate to a market in one Roman town in Turkey.  Miletus in 120 AD was at the peak of the Roman Empire just after the reign of Trajan.


Aphrodite is another exhibit at the Pergamon with a phenomenal mosaic tile in front of her.


Robert and David in the Pergamon.


The Ishtar Gate is one of the most stunning archeological reconstructions I’ve ever seen.  One has to wonder just what this would have been perceived like in 575 BC when people came to visit King Nebuchadnezzar II‘s Babylon.  The gate itself was dedicated to the goddess Ishtar, a goddess of love and war worshiped by a cult that practiced sacred prostitution.  Interestingly, one of the myths of Ishtar was her decent into the underworld which could be thought of as an ancient invocation of current zombie fiction.


The Code of Hammurabi or Babylonian law code where “an eye for an eye” comes from is documented on this copy of the famous stele.  The original stele resides in The Louvre in Paris.  Somehow I missed this on my visit to The Louvre, but I am not surprised given the limited amount of time I had in Paris that day.


It was a great visit, but I was sorry to have missed the South wing of the Pergamon.  There simply was not enough time to take it all in as we had to get back to prepare for talks for the meetings, but I am so glad to have had the opportunity to share the experience with two amazing colleagues.



8 Replies to “Pergamon Museum”

  1. Looking forward to more. Thanks in part to your pictures from the Pergamon, it looks like my wife is not going to let me get away with another Germany trip without a day at the Pergamon. July 2013, here we come. I also haven’t been there since they finished the US embassy. Oh, so much to see there.

    1. Looks like they did a really nice job on the US Embassy. So much new construction in that part of Berlin.

      Enjoy the Pergamon and plan on most of the day… ;-)

  2. Nice shots! One of my favorite museums. Was just talking about the altar in my myth class last week, I’ll have to share your link with them.

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